TIPS for shooting waterfalls in the mountains ?

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by roundball, Mar 10, 2015.

  1. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Legend

    Oct 8, 2013
    Thinking about planning a week-long "Waterfall Photo Trip" this summer.
    There are scores of big (and small) waterfalls in the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains in the Appalachian mountain range of Western North Carolina / Eastern Tennessee. All info is at my fingertips on the Internet for identifying the top 10, 40, etc, waterfalls to select from and plan out a daily itinerary before ever leaving home.

    Between the Internet and phone calls, I can determine which of the biggest & best waterfalls are accessible by car...or with no more than a short hike of a few hundred yards. Knocking on 70 I don’t need to get out there and have a heart attack, or break a leg back-packing gear up a steep mountain side. Maybe use Asheville, NC as a base of operations, stay at a Marriott, eat breakfast and evening meals there…(all free using rewards points from my CC).

    Thinking a typical day will be up & ready to pull out as early as breakfast is served.
    Drive to / shoot a morning waterfall, then drive to / shoot another waterfall that afternoon.
    Then back to the motel to eat, process photos, and crash for the night, repeat the next day.

    I’ve got the gear well covered and will have backup bodies, lenses, tripods, etc.
    Recently got a set of Hoya ND2 / ND4 / ND8 filters, am experimenting / learning about them.
    But do need to make a final decision on graduated filter(s).

    Pretty big investment in time and travel going out there to do this and may only get to do it once so I’d like to maximize the results of the trip. Would really appreciate tips anyone might be willing to share about shooting waterfalls…from ND filters to whatever…for a more in-depth / technical / professional approach than just shooting snapshots of waterfalls.

    Just one of many examples of the planning info available online:

    And here’s a map with details of each waterfall location by clicking a green flag:

    View attachment 57467
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015
  2. alaios

    alaios TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2013
    where is your polarizer?
  3. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Legend

    Oct 8, 2013
    LOL...that's a given...stays on my Canon 24-35L by default.
    Simply mentioned the ND filters as they're something out of the norm that I might want to use.
  4. WestOkid

    WestOkid TalkEmount All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 25, 2014
    New Jersey, USA
    Roundball make sure you have some decent hiking boots and stuff to dry your gear or cover it as necessary. I learned the hard way. Many times you can't avoid the water and still get "the shot".

    As for shooting.
    • Get a little wet for the shot. Just be careful as the rocks near falls are slippery (again, get good hiking boots)
    • Walk vs zoom if you need to get closer. It does not produce the same shot. Zooming will compress the falls. That's great for a face but not for waterfall.
    • Shoot different shutter speeds. You will be surprised at how much a photo changes with a 1 stop change of the shutter. Don't assume the first shutter speed you chose is the best.
    • Avoid the temptation to include the sky in your shot. Rarely does it do more than take away from the falls
    • Avoid high ISO if you can. It's hard to get rid of the noise in water and it still looks the same
    • Go when the sun is not directly facing the falls. In fact, avoid the Sun altogether if you can. It is rarely your friend even in the golden hour.
    • Shoot multiple exposures if you can. The caverns of these falls can have a wide dynamic range that your eyes can see, but your sensor can't. I know you shoot jpeg, so your d-range is even more limited.
    • Go back multiple times if you can
    • Most of all - Enjoy yourself!!!
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Legend

    Oct 8, 2013
    Wow, thank you...most of those are exactly the kind of things I would not have known about.
  6. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    What Gary said! Especially about wearing good boots. Don't ask me how I know. :rolleyes:
  7. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Legend

    Oct 8, 2013
    I'm in good shape with all sorts of outdoor gear from a lifetime of hunting / Fishing / camping...clothes, boots, Gore-Tex raingear, etc
  8. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Legend

    Oct 8, 2013
    In the tips you were so unselfishly willing to share, it looks like the two I quoted about the Sky and the Sun would seem to eliminate the need for getting a "graduated" ND filter for the I assume the 1,2,3-stop set of ND filters I already have should be fine if I only needed something to experiment with some really blurred water shots...might not even need them, but I'll have them.
  9. WestOkid

    WestOkid TalkEmount All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 25, 2014
    New Jersey, USA
    It really wouldn't be fair to for me to say it's not needed. In my workflow it isn't. I don't use graduated ND filters. I only use a CP and NDs because their effects cannot easily be recreated in post. In my opinion, the digital age lends itself to handling graduated filters in post where you can selectively lower EV on the areas that need it vs. being a slave to the filter which has a physical line that will dictate your composition. Others may feel differently.
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  10. pbizarro

    pbizarro Guest

    If the waterfalls are in forested areas, shoot when the sky is overcast. This decreases the harsh contrast, and increases saturation.

    Grad NDs can become useful if the waterfall is in a more open space, and there is interest in the sky.
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